The things of this world are vessels, entrances for stories; when we touch them or tumble into them, we fall into their labyrinthine resonances. Lynda Sexson
Geometric Botanicals is my name for a journey of exploration, learning and discovery that each year grew to include new facets about plant life, especially flowers, and textile art forms. This endeavor encompasses both a personal language with geometric and botanical forms and an extension towards new mediums including natural dyes and mordants.
It all begins in the garden, since my childhood, I have sought out gardens. I enjoy collecting and tending plants, learning about them, and even experimenting with them.
Images from my garden at various points throughout the year
One of the botanical gardens that holds a strong impression that I can easily recollect from my childhood is that of the Jardín Botánico de Caracas in Venezuela. The size of the trees, its vast spaces of some unusual vegetation, along with the extensive and diverse gamut of plant types that I encountered were awe inspiring.
When I moved to Oregon (United States,) I grew accustomed to being surrounded with lots of green lush vegetation. The prevalence of rain took some getting used to, but the green to this day is something I naturally long for and like to have near me. All the years of hiking in the forests enhanced my appreciation of plants.
So naturally, when I came across David Lee’s book Nature’s Palette, I wanted to undertake the task of working with natural dyes. The results were surprising and truly beautiful! But the mordants needed to fix the dyes to the fabric ultimately made me reconsider. Some of these substances were best not to have around my young son. The project would have to wait for a more appropriate time and workspace setting with the materials.
I still have a dozen or so silk scarves and ties that were dyed with these natural pigments. Many were drawn from eucalyptus trees and flowers in my garden that I especially planted for this purpose. Others like Brazilwood and Logwood are still readily available and are well known historically important dyes in the textile industry. My most memorable dye was that from the Cosmos flower. It is a little yellow-orange wildflower. The dyes created from these blooms were amongst some of the best and beautiful golds I had the chance to work with at the time!
The well-known historical dyes were a treat to work with and beautiful as well. Brazil was named after Brazilwood’s red/pink dye.
Logwood historically was known and widely exported like Brazilwood. Logwood’s purples were deep and rich. The dyes have remained vibrant over the course of the year which is important. Some natural dyes do shift in tonalities with time and are best stored away from bright lights. Soaps need to be PH neutral. I discovered this as an alkaline soap turned some of my dyes to a bluer tone and I had to use vinegar to introduce an acidic PH and shift the color back towards a yellow. These nuances made me appreciate the chemistry classes I attended.
Along with the exploration of the physical qualities of these botanical dyes, I explored the natural geometries that were evident in plants. These are some images from my explorations. I include these designs with much more detailed information in earlier blog posts.
These geometric compositions are at the heart of my work and have evolved over many years especially in my work with the Wheel within a Wheel series of paintings. Here’s a view of a studio set up with a number of artworks and a variety of tools like easels, desk, computer, paintbrushes and compasses.
Some of my earliest artworks were paintings of abstract idealized flowers. Many of these paintings were done during my high school years using acrylic on large canvases – 36 in to 72 in wide.
This exploration of abstract floral forms continued throughout my college years and began to evolve towards a more focused interest in geometric symmetries.
Through a naturalist art class, I explored the portraiture of flowers (and the hummingbirds that inhabited my garden) and fell in love with watercolors!
Geometric Botanicals has evolved further towards digital processes, many of which are more environmentally friendly given the technology of today. I will write about these explorations in my next post.